Hydropower generation drops to lowest levels | Sunday Observer

Hydropower generation drops to lowest levels

The percentage of hydropower generation to meet consumer demand for electricity, compared with thermal power generation, dropped to unprecedented levels this year with records showing hydropower contributed less than 13.5 percent of the power generated by both thermal and hydro only during the first five months of this year.

During this period, more than 86.5 percent of the power was generated through thermal power. These figures do not include power generated through alternative power sources such as solar and wind.

According a Cabinet paper which received approval to tender for 100MW of ‘supplementary’ power last week, the highest ever previous use of thermal power generation since 2006 was in 2012 when 75.4% of the power generated came from thermal sources.

The CEB has justified the haste in which the tender for the 100MW thermal supplementary power will be closed after opening next week.

Sources indicated that less than three weeks will be given to respond to the tender with turbines to be ready and installed in five locations across the country before the end of November due to the continuing drought and worsening water levels in the hydro reservoirs.

According to figures provided to the Cabinet by the CEB, power generation capacities of the reservoirs have decreased to 37%. “Last year, hydro storage was 60% when compared to the corresponding period this year,” the CEB informed the Cabinet, stating that it is not prudent to rely on 1,350 MW of hydropower out of 3,900 MW of total installed capacity during the coming months.

The worst affected by the drought is the Victoria Reservoir, with only 16.3% of its capacity available, which can supply only an estimated 71 Giga Watt hour of power.

At fully capacity, Victoria is rated at over 435 GW hours of power. Other reservoirs with less than 50% capacity include Kotmale (30.7%), Randenigala (25.9%) and Samanalawewa (27.2%).

The total tender for 100MW is to be installed in Pallekelle (20MW), Hambanthota (20MW), Galle (10MW), Mathugama (30MW) and Habarana (20MW).

According to the Cabinet paper, this will be in addition to the 60 MW of power that was also procured through a similar tender in January this year as supplementary power.

While the tenure of this 60MW tender was to end in August, a two months extension has been granted and probably, another six months extension will be granted according to highly placed government sources.

While the price per unit from this tender was Rs 28.98, considerably lower than some of the current agreements the CEB has with private power producers, industry experts believe that purchasing supplementary power at these prices will continue to drive up the cost for the consumer when the average thermal generating costs using Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), the preferred fuel platform in the alternate Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP) 2018-2037 approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka in July this year, is less than Rs. 18 per unit, a cost saving of at least Rs. 10 per unit.

“The Cabinet paper states that because the previous tender for 60 MW was at Rs 28.98 per unit, lower than some long-term agreements, there is no additional financial cost borne by the CEB due to this emergency procurement. This is an erroneous statement as even though the price is lower than previous agreements, proper planning could have lowered it much further down, the opportunity cost of buying emergency power at Rs 28.98 is about Rs 10.00, because LNG is available at Rs 18 or lower,” an industry source told the Sunday Observer.

According to the PUCSL report ‘Electricity Supply 2020 and Beyond - Challenges and Recommendations’, released in August this year, there is sufficient capacity to meet the system peak demand in the next six months. However, the report also cautioned that energy adequacy in the next six months is highly dependent on the rainfall expected during the next few months. If sufficient rainfall is not received, continuous energy inadequacies will be observed,” the report said.

PUCSL approved 242 MW of major hydro, 215 MW of mini hydro, 1,389 MW of Solar, 1205 MW of wind, 85 MW of biomass, 4800 MW of Natural Gas, 330 MW of furnace oil based power and 105 MW of gas turbine power to be added to the electricity generation system in a 20-year period.

The CEB is yet to formally inform the Public Utilities Commission regarding the supplementary purchase, Director General of the PUCSL, Damitha Kumarasinghe told the Sunday Observer.

While stating that he cannot comment on the tender as PUCSL has not been informed and he has not sighted the cabinet paper, Kumarasinghe said that in general, no new supplementary or emergency power should be purchased until “we have a very good idea about the water levels.”

“A better idea can be obtained towards the latter part of October. Now they might be going for tendering but purchasing should be done looking at the November situation,” Kumarasinghe said.

“All these requirements are there because they have not yet implemented the long-term plan. And not getting any plans on the ground for so many years has resulted in these short-term procurements. This is the issue we have. The primary thing is to implement the long-term plan.

Then there will not be such situation where short-term requirements arise to which you need to spend a lot of money,” Kumarasinghe commented, illustrating how renewable energy sources “which the CEB claims to be expensive are much cheaper,” than purchasing supplementary power.

“For example, the last solar tender was closed at 11.86 per unit. Last wind tender was around at 12 rupees per unit. So those prices are less than half of the diesel prices. What our thinking is that they should have implemented these plans two three years ago, rather than waiting for this moment and saying we are getting at this price,” Kumarasinghe said.

While solar energy can only be used in the daytime (some solutions are now available to store and re-use solar energy in the night), PUCSL has noted a significant increase in daytime demand this year. Until mid-August, in 65 days the daytime demand had exceeded 2,000MW and among these in five days day peak had exceeded the night peak. 


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